Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Hi, John here.

I've been away from blog and web updates for a few months for a very good reason.

Starting on July 15th, I embarked on a project to write new music for the Arboreal Quartet. The different phases of this project involve further research into North Indian classical music, compositions, and rehearsals with my group.

First off I must say that it is very rewarding to be working with such talented musicians as Tom Eliosoff (guitar), Sage Reynolds (upright bass) and Eric Thibodeau (drums). One of my goals has been to push myself forward musically and to write material tailored to the strengths of the musicians, and this has been very rewarding.

At present we are having bi-weekly rehearsals, and I'm excited to be unveiling a few of the new pieces in two weeks over at les Pas Sages here in Montréal.

I have a lot to say about the project but I'll be brief here (for the moment!) Essentially what I'm doing is looking at the Hindustani tradition of classifying different ragas according to the time of day when they are normally played. A book I bought in India in 1998 (Nad - Understanding Raga Music by Bagchee) contains a chart dividing the day and night into two sets of 4 cycles, or 3-hour periods. Each period contains many possible ragas.

Through this book and several other sources I began creating a map of these ragas. My plan is to choose a raga from each period, study it, listen to as many recordings of it as I can find, and come up with a musical idea based upon it. The completed piece will pass through all of the sections of the day and night. My goal is not to write North Indian classical music, but rather to be inspired by it, in the context of the sonic possibilities of the ensemble I've put together.

The working title of my project -- Interstices -- refers to a particular interest of mine: how can I express, musically, the transition periods between these sections of the day and night? What are some ways I can lead the listener from one period to the next, in such a way that the unique qualities of each section are highlighted?

I've had a number of ideas on how to accomplish this, and have been working away on exploring them. Along the way I've been keeping a detailed project journal, and it occurs to me that I could add sections of the journal to this blog as I proceed. The subject is vast and rewarding, and I still feel that I am barely scratching the surface here.

So, there, I've broken the radio silence! More to come soon.

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